Monday, June 14, 2021

Superdeep, from Russia on Shudder

Ever since Christian Nyby’s The Thing from Another World, snowy research facilities have not fared well in movies. The real-life Kola Superdeep was ostensibly a bore-hole, but according to this film, it was really a dodgy Soviet-era bio-lab. Unlike the snowbound locales of movies like The Last Winter and Black Mountain Side, its super-secret lab work is conducted miles below the permafrost. The deeper you go, the hotter it gets. Whatever is down there should stay down there in Arseny Syuhin’s Superdeep, which premieres Thursday on Shudder.

Anya’s training is in microbiology, but she works for high-placed Kremlin officials. Her masters dispatched her to the troubled subterranean installation not to conduct a rescue operation, but to recover sensitive samples. Grigoryev, the director had been denounced by his ambitious deputy, whom she instinctively distrusts. However, Grigoryev goes rogue as soon as the team arrives, changing passwords and hiding samples. Anya’s military escorts focus on the elusive director, but she suspects there is something more profoundly dangerous afoot. Maybe her first clue was the deranged lab worker, who tried to blow them apart with a grenade when they initially landed.

In a way,
Superdeep is releasing at a timely moment. Bio labs are definitely a topic on top-of-mind right now. After a year of the partisan media telling us there is absolutely, positively no way the Covid-19 virus came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, they have now grudgingly admitted it is a distinct possibility. The parasitic monster Anya finds in Kola Superdeep looks very different from Covid, but watching Superdeep is still the closest we will probably ever get to seeing inside the Wuhan institute.

The Soviet era setting also adds an intriguing dimension to
Superdeep. It pretty clearly implies Kremlin hardliners are hoping the Superdeep virus can be weaponized against the West, presumably after their anticipated coup, in a final gambit to win the Cold War. That is indeed a terrifying proposition—and a recklessly irresponsible one. Yet, judging from the CCP’s Covid cover-up, it is impossible to dismiss their scorched earth villainy as unthinkably unbelievable.

Syuhin also gives the film a really dark visual style and moody vibe. Everything truly looks and feels grim and grimy, in a very Soviet kind of way. More importantly, it is the Soviet mindset that drives the film and makes the situation so dire. Milena Radulovic does a nice job anchoring the film as the disillusioned and ultimately horrified Anya. We do not really get a sense of much of the other characters’ personas per se, but they appear and act like believable apparatchiks, soldiers, and thugs.

Kola Superdeep is a very unsettling and claustrophobic horror-sf setting. The viral creature is professionally rendered, but it is too much like previous monsters to shock experienced horror viewers. Still,
Superdeep is definitely one of the more effective Russian genre films to be released in the last few years (but dubbing the dialog was definitely a mistake).  When you get right down to it, the combination of hardcore Communists and virulent viruses should scare the pants off everyone. Recommended for fans of arctic and viral horror, Superdeep starts streaming Thursday (6/17) on Shudder.